pro-audio products

microphone amplifier

ma2.2b discrete mic preamp

product review

by Ney Mello

Part 1

I just want to say that I am very satisfied with the MA-2.2 I just received from Muzeek World. I went in my studio this morning and compared it to a Avalon M5 using Mogami cable, a Neuman U87 and a Rode NTK tube mic. The MA-2.2 was more detailed and clear in the very high frequencies and that carried over to the lower notes as added articulation and clarity with an open character that was very refreshing (I used a customized bracing nylon string Ovation acoustic classic model with a bright tone and fast attack but mellowed by 12 years use).

The Avalon M5 sounded also very good and musical but had a comparatively veiled top end-quite soothing in a way. It also sounded as if a limiter had been put in the signal path by comparison and had a slight nasally quality faced with that tight guitar tone. The MA-2.2 revealed a lot more detail and "air". In that respect it was no contest with the Avalon. The attack was also instantaneous which will be of great value in a mix situation when the track is side by side with others. The MA-2.2 is in a superior league in that respect . Tim Farrant tells me that this is due to the very high slew rate of the electronics. I suspect that with more conventional acoustic classical guitars which tend to lack the flamenco style projection of the Ovation classic, the MA-2.2 will be even better. I will have a chance to see it this week when I record classical guitarist Jamie Andreas on a Julian Bream favored Aram guitar named by the maker :"Elisa" (see part 2).

On voice, I tested my baritone in narration in French, English, Portuguese, Italian, and some Persian and Spanish and the MA-2.2 definitely is clearer and way more articulated than the Avalon which has a blurry effect on my voice. I also later tested it on a pair of Latin percussion bongos and there I heard through the MA-2.2 all the details that my all wood tracking room brings out. The Avalon, while still cool and musical sounding on acoustic guitar, sounded by comparison dead and muffled on pro level hand percussion . The MA-2.2 makes one feel like playing more, even during a test due to the amazing liveliness and crispness of the response. All the micro details of the "son" were there and it makes and ideal mic preamp for tabla as well.

I still would use the Avalon M5 in selected applications where the source might be a bit shrill or the mic too bright and stiff sounding for example. The MA-2.2 would in these cases expose those sources too mercilessly I suspect. The MA-2.2 is in my mind great for pairing with tube mics as well as solid state ones, as it does not add additional blur and you get the precise blur you want but then, only from the selected mic - without the compound tube effect. This is critical for acoustic instrument recording and certain male bass and baritone voices.

All in all a superb unit and a great value, since you get two channels for the price, and it looks hyper-cool with the high intensity blue light in the front panel and the refined and subtle industrial design does justice to this masterful electronic design.

Part 2

I just came back from Woodstock NY and we did a preliminary session for classical guitarist Jamie Andreas in his gorgeous mountain estate. Jamie plays "Elisa" - a one-off guitar by Kevin Aram. I played the instrument before the session to get the full perspective and to see where is would sound best in the tracking room. Then I set up the Buzz Audio MA-2.2 to warm up overnight . I used a Rode tube microphone large diaphragm and a more midrangey boxy sounding microphone, the Neuman U-87Ai. large diaphragm. The mic placement, polar patterns and impedance had a very crucial role and shall remain a secret as I was greeted with comments like" the guitar is so alive" and " the guitar sounds gorgeous" etc... I made a point to compare the recording with the Naxos label series classical recordings and it was superior in detail and closeness and equal in warmth.

Then I played it to Jamie in comparison to the Los Angeles Guitar quartet "Guitar Heroes" CD which was recorded with a Millennia Media mic pre and comparable microphones, some even more costly. The Millennia Media did not have as much detail and fast attack response as the Buzz MA-2.2, it also sounded more veiled and muffled but not nasally like the Avalon M-5 to my ears . I was very surprised upon hearing this. We took into consideration when comparing that there were different guitars each time.

The Kevin Aram has a Stradivarius like quality with lots of incandescent upper partials whereas the other guitars were either, to my mind, more woolly and bassey/tubby or slightly upper midrange-clanky like the Millennium guitars used by the LA guitar quartet. Of course the artistry of the masters playing them made these tonal factors entirely irrelevant. They would sound masterful on any guitar and the power of their musical impact would still be evident on a $200.00 guitar. But these were all very high level custom instruments and the MA-2.2 was able to capture the liquid fire and molten silver feel present in the Kevin Aram guitar.

The result of all this is that there are plans being made to record the next CD in the spring by this artist with the MA-2.2 as catalyst. In the meantime I am starting on my duo project with Michael Fath right away and the MA-2.2 will be the only mic preamp I will be using on our solo guitars. The Avalon M-5 in the studio will be replaced by the MA-2.2 for guitar, voice, and percussion.
[Dec 2004]

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